Between Bridges presents the first non-commercial solo exhibition of Romanian conceptual artist Ioana Nemeș (1979-2011) in Germany from 13 September 2023.
Fig. above: Ioana Nemeș, Monthly Evaluations – 10.08.2006, 2011, site-specific installation, self-adhesive text, wall paint Courtesy KILOBASE BUCHAREST / Ioana Nemeș Archive
The exhibition is grouped around a series of cross-media series from the decade of her artistic production and revolves around an elaborate ensemble of works of a diagram-like system of (self-) evaluations under the super-title Monthly Evaluations (2005-2010): Driven by the need to “record, dissect, understand and describe the intangible things like life or time”, Nemeș developed a methodology of daily evaluations based on a range of parameters (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial and happiness), combining them with numerical systems, colour codes and poetic text fragments. From these evaluations emerged an archive of lived experiences, a framework within which Nemeș could work, selecting particular days and giving them form, as murals, objects or sculpture: assembling them into elliptically coherent compositions and possible narratives, exploring the interconnections between personal, historical and psychological rhythms, and transforming abstract notions of time into experiential and affective forms.
The exhibition was jointly curated by Kilobase Bucharest, Fanny Hauser and Viktor Neumann.
Nemeș’s multifaceted circadian evaluations have generated an archive of lived experience, a framework within which the artist could operate, extracting particular ‘days’ and giving shape to them as murals, objects or sculptures. In doing so she could bind works together as elliptically linked compositions and possible narratives; assessing the intersections between psychological rhythms that were both personal and historical; and transforming abstract notions of time into palpable and affective forms. Nemeș occupies an ambiguous position in relation to the concept of “chrononormativity” coined by scholar Elizabeth Freeman (“the use of time to organize individual human bodies towards maximum productivity”): her practice neither affirms nor negates the logics and aesthetics of chronological regimentation, or indeed its techniques and apparatuses – clocks, calendars, chronicles, and the visual language of bureaucracy. Rather, she exposes the impact of these on the human condition, acknowledging each work and exhibition as a particular experience and experiment in time, often embracing dissonant temporalities and forms of logic within the individual works and series. Her practice of self-evaluation simultaneously served as a multiyear work-in-progress, and a process of archive-building; rigorous and experimental, it was both a point of departure and a destination, the subject and the means. On numerous occasions she emphasised that her work was not merely autobiographical but arose from an obsession with internal systems of organisation, as well as a desire to explore how time passes through them.
The gallery spaces on the ground level are devoted to presenting a selection of the Monthly Evaluations series, and introducing days not previously exhibited, and which have now emerged from the first revisiting of Nemeș’s notebooks after her death. Installed as a non-chronological composition, the days selected primarily revolve around the artist’s investigations of time as seen through its affective dimensions. While Nemeș’s work has historically embraced a variety of material and spatial manifestations and dimensions (including framed prints, epoxide sculptures, cardboard cubes, or even book dustjackets), the exhibition at Between Bridges predominantly presents the ‘days’ in ephemeral media such as wall paintings and window plots. Nemeș favoured this approach in her practice given its capacity to highlight her preoccupation with the very fabric of time, both as subject matter and as a material fact embedded in the display itself.
By the end of 2010, Nemeș had actively concluded the day-to-day-assessments, yet continued to employ the resulting ‘database’ as material in order to investigate the malleability of time. This conceptual shift was most evident at her last exhibition before her untimely death, held in March– May 2011 at the recently closed New York non-profit staple Art in General (1981–2020). Invited to take part in the prestigious Eastern European Residency Exchange (EERE) programme, she initiated a sculptural manifestation of what she envisioned as her paramount next series: Times Colliding (Monthly Evaluations 6.09.2006, 22.09.2007, 12.04.2011) (2011). Reproduced for the exhibition at Between Bridges, this enigmatic sculpture depicts three days far removed from each other in time, which seem to reinforce each other even as they appear on the verge of collapse. In a crisp peach colour, 6.09.2006 announces THE COLOR OF INTENSE, EROTIC MOMENTS IS NOT RED, IS NOT RED, which then slices through 22.09.2007 in a frosty shade of blue–green, proclaiming FREEDOM AS ANOTHER FORM OF TYRANNY, AS ANOTHER WONDERFUL CAGE. The latter part is then seared by the expressive orange of 12.04.2011, inscribed with the words, IN SORROW ALL THE FACIAL MUSCLES RELAX. Despite, or precisely as account of their impending breakdown, the individual days are transmuted into an interdependent and supportive structure. Their collision – by definition both a violent clash and an encounter between entities or particles that leads to an exchange or transformation of energy – could also be understood as Nemeș’s alignment with a lineage of artists and scholars who reconsidered conventional concepts of time in the twentieth century. Given the local specificity inherent to her exhibition practice, the sculpture can be read as a dialogue with the many New York artists associated with Minimalism and Concept Art who were influenced by George Kubler’s seminal 1962 treatise ‘The Shape of Time: Insights on the History of Objects’. Kubler put forward the idea that art, rather than being confined to a rigid framework of causally linked, linear connections, is a diverse and multidirectional transmission of energy. In this light, Nemeș’s sculpture is her anti-chronological, anti-chrononormative testimony that time – in all its elusiveness as a concept, sensation and memory – become both form and potentiality.
This collapse of ‘clock time’ continues on the staircase down from the ground level, where a vinyl drawing of a digital clock – abstractions of colliding dials replacing its digits – is installed, visually dismantling one of the key devices for regularising life. Meanwhile, the downstairs gallery presents a set of documents that complement the Monthly Evaluations series, in addition to several works that reveal Nemeș’s infatuation with the employment of her daily rituals and regulations, and the expressive potentials of colour. Citing a recently discovered note on a prospective development of a new work, Untitled (The Lost Days) (2010/11) enacts the so-called Lost Days – periods that Nemeș did not, or could not, evaluate and yet which remained registered – as a video projection on fog, once again embracing ephemerality. In the main downstairs gallery, the Untitled (2011) collages, for which she assembled individual chips of paint inscribed with lyrical names from the Benjamin Moore colour palettes to create ‘ready-made poetry’ (During her five-year assessments for the Monthly Evaluations series, Nemeș worked exclusively with Benjamin Moore paint to assign different nuances of colours to her days).
Several vitrines display a range of works and documents related to the Monthly Evaluations complex. These include a collection of emblematic photographs from the The Wall Project (2001–2004), Nemeș’s first ‘self-evaluative’ project which she conceived, performed and simultaneously assessed within the confines of the small Bucharest apartment she shared with her family. Initially organised as a storyboard and divided into three main sections, ‘art & projects’, ‘fashion’ and ‘voodoo/wish list’ – which were later given scores of plus/minus or 0–10, the project allowed her to monitor the changes in her personal and professional desires and aspirations. Nearby, an audio file of Nemeș’s first self-interview (2004) is installed, in which the artist assumes the double role of interviewer/interviewee. The interview variously offers insights into the development of The Wall Project, the rules and fields if enquiry Nemeș set for herself, as well as the uncertainties of Romania’s changing artistic and economic landscape during a period of transformation across the European Union. Nemeș’s written self-interviews (2005–2010), disguised as two-person Q&As with fictional critics, have been compiled into a publication for Between Bridges, which can be read at the venue. They shed light on her artistic methods, a range of ethical and political viewpoints, and her attitudes towards the cultural sphere and the art world.
The rearmost wall of the lower-ground exhibition space shows an installation by Apparatus 22, a collective founded in 2011 that included Ioana Nemeș, and is today made up of its other founding members and the artist’s closest peers: Maria Farcaș, Erika Olea and Dragoș Olea. Entitled Disco Punch I (dedicated to Ioana Nemeș) (2014), it is the first of a series of four installations devoted to their partner and friend: an at once serene and exuberant meditation on grief, loss, and the ephemerality of life.
Friday, 15.09.2023, 7 – 9 pm
Extended opening hours during Berlin Art Week:
Wednesday, 13.09- Sunday, 17.09.2023, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.